Irish teenagers significantly below EU average in using digital technology for learning

Just over a week ago the Educational Research Centre (ERC) published a new report, “Digital Technologies in Education: Ireland in International Context”.
This report highlighted that Irish teens are “significantly inferior” to students of similar age in other countries when it comes to using digital technology to learn.
This report tracked trends in data collected in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which gathers information from 15-year old students and school principals in a broad range of countries.

These PISA studies were conducted in 2012, 2015 and 2018 for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

An analysis of the OECD studies of 15-year-old students found that Ireland fared well on broad measures of school digital technology infrastructure. However, the ERC noted that Ireland was “substantially” below the EU and OECD averages on measures of student digital technology use for learning – both inside and outside the school.

According to the ERC, this was a consistent finding across all three studies from 2012, 2015 and 2018. The ERC also noted that in 2018, the ability of schools in Ireland to use digital technology to support teaching and learning was significantly lower than the OECD and EU averages.

A more detailed examination of the items contributing to the overall schools Digital Technology capacity measure showed that the adequacy of technical support in Irish post-primary schools is particularly low. Just one in five students were in schools whose principals reported that the level of technical support available was adequate.

Another take away from this report was that levels of perceived digital technology competence and autonomy, was lower among girls and socio-economically disadvantaged students in Irish schools.

Countries with generally strong track records on school digital technology infrastructure and use, and student educational access include Australia, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The authors suggest that a review of the digital technology-related policies and practices in these top performing countries could be valuable in guiding aspects of the implementation of our new Digital Strategy for Schools (DSS) which runs to 2027. The ERC report, published on the 29th September, calls for a dedicated resource stream for the assessment, monitoring and evaluation of the new DSS to 2027. It notes that given the significant investment in Digital Technologies in recent years and planned investment under the new DSS to 2027, ongoing evaluation should occur alongside implementation in order to provide evidence of impact and guidance on targeted allocation of resources.

The Irish findings may come as little surprise in light of previous reports highlighting a lack of technology support for schools, poor broadband connectivity in some areas and the need for additional teacher training to improve skill levels.

Lead author Dr Jude Cosgrove said that while Ireland generally performs reasonably well in international comparisons, it lags behind in some areas especially technical support and using Digital Technologies in learning.

“This is due to the lack of a national overarching vision and a long-term plan for digital technologies in education.”

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